How biodiversity loss causes pandemics


Connecting dots


According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in its Pandemic report Escaping the Era of Pandemics, there is a clear link between global health pandemics and the biodiversity and climate crisis we are experiencing. Changes in land use, the expansion and intensification of agriculture, and the trade and consumption of wildlife disrupt ecosystems, and promote proximity between humans and wildlife, livestock and humans, and thus with the pathogens they carry.

In this episode, originally aired in April 2020, Landscape News editor Gabrielle Lipton brings together Thomas Gillespie and Kate Jones, two leading experts under the framework of World Health Day 2020 to explain the links between biodiversity loss and zoonotic diseases, as well as actions needed to change our ways to prevent another one. 

Kate Jones is a professor and researcher of ecology and biodiversity at University College London. Her work focuses on the interface of ecological and human health and has warned for decades about the global trend of emerging infectious diseases.

Thomas Gillespie is an associate professor of environmental sciences and environmental health at Emory University. His research examines interactions among anthropogenic environmental change; biodiversity; and the ecology and emergence of disease in wildlife, domestic animals, and people.


The complex nexus between biodiversity loss and zoonotic diseases


Jones and Gillespie elaborate on the complexity of ecological and human systems and the importance of an integrated approach in preventing future pandemics:

  • “Diseases are not a result of a simple link between cutting a forest and getting ebola, it’s about how you alter the systems.” Jones remarks.
  • Integrated landscapes can help prevent disease outbreaks as they preserve ecosystem communities.
  • Opposite to popular belief, zoonotic diseases aren’t exclusive to tropical areas. “Those can happen everywhere as ecosystem disruption can happen anywhere, it’s just that in the tropics there are more species and therefore more diseases,” says Jones.
  • One Health approach is a great tool to encourage actions and strategies in response to COVID-19 while taking into account biodiversity and ecosystem health.


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